In the road ahead stood a small deer, looking dazed, confused, and more than a bit frightened. It was close to midnight, but I can’t really say the little doe was nervous about breaking
her curfew because here in Pennsylvania the white tailed deer do keep rather late hours. Still, I was only a few blocks from home, and it was surprising to see the animal in such a populated area.
I slowed down, expecting her to trot out of my path as I approached. With only a few yards between the doe and my car, I realized she was not going to move so I stopped and honked my horn. But the doe remained right there in the middle of the lane. Driving slowly now, I passed her on the berm. When even my car moving so close by didn’t startle her into running, I pulled off the road and observed her in my rearview mirror. That’s when I noticed her holding up one of her back legs.
The sight of one of God’s unique and wonderful creatures injured and stranded made my mother senses go all tingly. Had she been hit by a car and left behind by rest of the herd? I turned off the engine. My daughter, who’d been watching warily from the passenger side, sensed danger. “Uh, Mom, what are you doing?” she asked, almost as if she didn’t already know the answer.
“That little doe looks hurt and scared,” I said. “We have to help her.” Although several previous attempts at wildlife rescue had been disastrous (Rest In Peace, little birds.), I was determined to see this brown-eyed child of nature safely off the road and—hopefully—headed toward home. Putting on my flashers, I stepped out of the car. “Hey,” I said, by way of addressing the deer, then once more a bit louder: “Hey!”
Nothing. Seeing no oncoming traffic, I started toward the animal.
“Where you going now?” my daughter wanted to know.
“Well, if she doesn’t get off the road, a car is going to come along and hit her again. She’ll probably get killed, and someone’s car could get messed up. I’m gonna chase her away so that doesn’t happen.”
I approached the doe slowly, stopping in the gravel directly behind her. A dog in a nearby yard began to bark. “Hey!” I repeated sharply, “Hey! Get off the road!” To emphasize the urgency of the situation, I clapped my hands in the deer’s direction and stamped my foot several times.
The dog went into full red alert mode, yapping the alarm. The deer stood statue still.
“Hey!” I called out, once more clapping and stamping, “Go! Get off the road!” Still there was no movement from the doe.
By now, my daughter had left the car and stood a few feet away. “What’s going on?” she wanted to know.
“She won’t move,” I explained. “I’m thinking she’s in shock.” Examining the deer from my position, I saw no blood, no bones sticking out, no urine, no feces.
“You stay here,” I told my daughter. Walking right up to the doe, I reached out with one index finger and poked her in the butt. There was no response. I poked her again, this time repeating my instructions in a loud, clear voice: “Hey! Get off the road!” She put her back foot down, but took not one step toward safety. Joining my daughter alongside the road, I studied things for a moment. “You know, she’s not a very big deer. . .”
“So?” my daughter asked, again as if she didn’t already know the answer.
“So I could probably pick her up and carry her off the road.”
“Do you really think that’s a good idea?” My daughter clearly was doubtful, and suddenly my mind filled with the vision of flailing hooves breaking my ribs and knocking out my teeth. Now I’m no beauty, but I do need my ribs and my teeth.
“I guess not. . .” I answered.
Approaching the deer again, I placed both palms on her rump and pushed. She flicked a brown ear toward me but stood firm. I pushed again— harder this time— and managed to make her lean comically in the direction of my push, but nothing more. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought. It was time to make this doe see reason.
“Listen, Bambi,” I told her, hands on my hips, “You’ve got to get off the road. If you don’t, a car will come along and hit you and you’ll be dead and maybe someone’s car will get messed up.” For emphasis I used my sternest mom voice. She looked vaguely in my direction and flicked an ear again, but steadfastly refused to move.
As I was using my vast powers of reasoning on the little doe, a big, red, pickup truck pulled off the road. This is Pennsylvania, after all. The window rolled down, and the driver called out, “Hey, did you hit that deer?”
“Nah,” I explained, “She was standing here when I came along. I think maybe she’s already been hit and she’s shocky. She won’t move.”
A big, baseball cap-wearing man climbed out of the truck, hiked up his jeans, and said, “Well, we’d better get her off the road before someone hits her and kills her and messes up his car.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” I agreed. “Duh,” I thought.
Mr. Baseball Cap came our way, clapping his hands and stamping his feet. Obviously, he didn’t know I’d already tried that method of persuasion. “Hey you!” he hollered at the deer, “Get off the road!” When she didn’t move, he gave her rump a shove. Tired of being pushed, the doe folded her long legs and lay down right at our feet. Apparently, we’d been transported to cartoon land.
“What the hell. . .?” mumbled Mr. Baseball Cap. He stuck out one cowboy-booted foot, and gave her a gentle nudge. Once again, the doe flicked her ears but stayed put. The dog continued sounding the alarm.
Behind us a screen door opened, and the dog’s owner—an old man who appeared to have just crawled from bed— came out, anxious to know what was upsetting his dog so late at night. “Hey,” the geezer asked us, “Did you hit that deer?”
“No,” I explained once more, “She was standing in the road when I got here. I think she was already hit and is in shock, because she won’t move.”
“Well, geez,” said Mr. Geezer, “We ought to get her off the road before someone kills her and messes up his car.”
Mr. Baseball Cap and I raised our palms in the universally accepted gesture meaning do ya think? Ignoring our sarcasm, Geezer tried a tactic he felt was sure to get the job done: He clapped his hands and stamped his feet in the doe’s direction, yelling, “Hey you! Git offa the road!” The doe, of course, remained where she was. Now I could imagine the rest of the doe’s wayward herd standing in the woods just off the road, muffling laughter and exchanging whatever forms of currency is presently used by four-legged creatures.
The three of us— Mr. Geezer, Mr. Baseball Cap and I— proceeded to stomp, nudge, and cajole the deer while the dog barked and my daughter watched from roadside. Finally, Mr. Geezer said, “Well, if she’s really hurt and won’t move, I suppose we could call the police have someone come get her.” At just that point, a police cruiser pulled up with its cherry top spinning.
“What’s the matter, did you hit that deer?” the officer wanted to know.
“No, she was already standing in the middle of the road when I got here.” I was quite familiar with the story by this time. “I think she’s already been hit and maybe she’s in shock. She won’t move.”
“Someone’s going to hit her and kill her,” said the officer, joining us. “We’d better try and get her off the road.” Mr. Baseball Cap, Mr. Geezer, the dog, and I all assured him we’d been trying to do just that.
“Hmm,” the officer shrugged. “Well, if she’s hurt and won’t move, I guess I’ll have to shoot her and drag her out of the road.” And he put one hand on his pistol.
No longer amused, the deer hopped to her feet and trotted off into a nearby patch of trees. We just stood and watched her go.
You know, I kind of hope that little doe collected on her bet and got to hang out with the biggest, baddest buck in the bunch. She earned it.